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BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUB

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BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUBKim David Smith is a name that audiences have come to recognize as an entertainer on the edge, an artist with a voice all his own, a man on a mission to stand out from the rest, both in his work and in his life. In show after show Mr. Smith goes a little deeper to find that which presents to the world his interests, his aesthetic, and his true self, and, finally, the unique brand of magic that he creates in his shows has been captured on CD, as he releases his first ever live recording of his work on the cabaret stage.

Just days after the release of Kim David Smith LIVE AT JOE'S PUB I reached out to the Smith to talk to him about the album, his work, the muses, and the effect of nudity and eyeliner on cabaret audiences.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced here in its entirety.

Kim David Smith! Thank you for chatting with BroadwayWorld today. Let's get the simplest question out of the way: when a fan approaches you after a show, what do you like to be called? Kim? Kim David? KDS? Mr. Smith?

I'm most comfortable with "my liege," but Kim is always a safe choice! My siblings call me "brüder" (we aren't German, it's just something we do), and I call myself "Smith" when I'm annoyed with myself: "c'mon Smith, get it together!"

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUB

I recently had a chance to listen to your new CD, appropriately titled Kim David Smith LIVE AT JOE'S PUB. You've been entertaining audiences around New York for a while. What made this the right time to put out this album?

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUBWith no live shows going on, it feels to be a very cosmically correct time to be releasing a live album, and I couldn't be more grateful to share it at a time when Tracy Stark and I are unable to perform at Joe's Pub or Club Cumming. Professionally, and I was talking about this with Tracy just the other day, I feel like my relationship with Tracy and my music both have matured to a point where creating and releasing a live album feels so right - I haven't previously been ready for such an endeavor, even though I've wanted a live album spinning out there in the ether for the longest time. It's just the right time; our arrangements are so solid, our understanding of one another and my relationship with my audience is so alive, and we're having so much fun. My managers Clay Mills and Jeremy Katz put the idea on the table last year and we all decided: yes! Now!

The CD is a kind of "Greatest Hits" from your time singing in nightclubs and it effectively captures that which you put on the stage; do theatrical shows, the kind in which you specialize, give a performer an opportunity to connect with an audience, or are they more presentational?

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUBOh, it's all about connecting! That's what I love about cabaret as a genre, it's about intimacy with one's audience. I literally reach out and touch my crowds, especially as I enter and leave the room (sitting in laps, tousling hair, stroking shoulders), so there's that physical element of flirtation, but then emotionally and musically, it's all about sharing stories, and welcoming audiences into my imagination as friends and co-creators. I don't tend to "explain" songs when introducing them, as I love for the audience to go on their own emotional journey with what Tracy and I are conjuring in the room. I like people to have the freedom to imagine and experience themselves while I sing.

You and Tracy Stark have created arrangements for some of these songs that are an almost shocking departure from the versions that people know. What is the process for these new treatments, from start to finish? How are they born?

Whenever I have a new idea for a song or arrangement, I immediately call Tracy and run it by her - we usually get together and take a couple of passes at a tune in its original form, and then start to augment and maul it to fit in with our aesthetic and designs. Tracy knows my range and taste automatically, and so we'll usually try out a couple of keys before getting into rearranging, which is probably my favorite part of creating our shows.

Was your relationship to Weimar Kabarett an immediate attraction, or did the style and period grow on you gradually?

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUBI became intrigued by the music, culture, and politics of the Weimar Republic as a teenager, via Fosse's Cabaret film. I was completely obsessed with it, and Sally Bowles, and would stay up until the wee hours rewinding "Mein Herr" over and over again. The film, harrowing as it is, was such an alien escape to life growing up in a country town (Traralgon, Victoria, Australia), and imagining myself as a low-brow cabaret chanteuse was a potent and delightful recurring fantasy (one that I'm not sure I've recovered from). From that source material, I began to research the actual music of the period, and continued to fall deeper and deeper in love with the chaos and creativity of people like Anita Berber, Mischa Spoliansky, Hannah Hoch, Friedrich Hollaender, Josephine Baker, and so many fabulous others.

Your German accent work is impeccable - do you speak conversational German or is your work with the Friedrich Hollaender songs achieved phonetically?

Thank you! I work really hard on it - I don't have conversational German yet, but I can direct someone to the kitchen sink, and ask for an open-faced sandwich, so I'm on my way! I consult frequently with my cabaret mother, Karen Kohler, on pronunciation. I've been told my German is pretty decent, but that my French sounds very Australian. Haha! I kind of love that, though.

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUB

I am an aging club kid, so I am very familiar with your dance music. What was the predominant factor that played into the decision to turn your attentions from the dance clubs to the cabaret clubs?

I have loved pop music since the womb - my mum played ABBA around the house growing up, and I was gifted Kylie Minogue's eponymous debut album for my 6th birthday, and have been thoroughly obsessed ever since. Given that my most favorite thing in the world is to transform pop songs into cabaret , I have been meta-delighted to put my own pop originals through that process, with "Shooting Star" (from my pop albums Nova and Supernova) taking a moody turn on the live album. In terms of where my attention lies as a performer, my passion is in communicating via the smoky, intimate small stages of cabaret, where theatre and music can live a short but fabulous life over the course of an evening. My pop music on the other hand is for working out and grooving through the day in a less-focused way, so I suppose that's how I differentiate the two. It's more fun to play with people and music live in the cabaret realms.

You have a very specific aesthetic, with your shows, your performances, and your appearance. When you began, did audiences take to you right away, or did they need some time to figure out the naked guy in the false eyelashes?

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUBI like to be approachable and fabulous all at once, and I am often playing with my look. I work with the wonderful costumiere Miodrag Guberinic (Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Frozen on Broadway, etc.) but then will also throw on a whole lot of vintage items and go with what's in the closet. My top hat, something of a signature item, was gifted to me by the director of my first ever show in Melbourne, Australia (in 2005 at the Butterfly Club), and I wear it still - most recently for my new show "Mostly Marlene" which we premiered at Club Cumming on March 2nd this year, JUST before the world disintegrated. That hat is a vintage and ancient piece, and I love it dearly. I also wore it as the Emcee in Hunter Foster's Cabaret at the Cape Playhouse a few years back...it comes with me everywhere! Audiences are pretty up for whatever I have on, be it a Dietrich-Inspired femme-tuxedo, or a mirror corset (with matching glass top hat), and I feel lucky to have crowds that are very go-with-the-flow with my appearance.

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUB

The relationship between a singing artist and their musical director is possibly the most important one in the creation process; what is it about Tracy Stark that makes it possible for you to create at the level you are working?

Tracy and I are dear friends, and make each other laugh constantly! When I'm performing with Tracy, I feel enveloped by her music; I feel safe, I feel listened-to, and I feel supported. I know she's following me, and I know I can keep my footing with her, and I know that she's taking the audience on the exact same journey I am. Tracy is an amazing artist, and so, so creative. She was to officiate my wedding in April before we were forced to postpone, and you best believe she'll be officiating when we get a new date on the calendar!

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUB

Kim, assume I am a person whose life has been so sheltered that I have never heard of them, and tell me who Kylie and Marlene are.

My main mission over my 13 years living in the States is to convert Americans to Kylie Minogue fans. Kylie is to me, and has been surmised by Rufus Wainwright previously, as "gay shorthand for joy." Without summoning comparisons, Kylie is a world-famous pop artist, known to most for her seductively whimsical la-la-la's (featured at the end of "Dracula's Tango" on my live album!), and is an Australian and gay icon, both. She's my Patronus, my spirit animal, and my Jesus. Marlene is the original queer icon; she challenged gender norms while seducing the globe through music and film, and, fleeing Germany for Hollywood, became one of the most famous women in the world for a long, long time. Her live at Café de Paris album (recorded June 21, 1954) explains Dietrich better than I ever could. She remains one of the sexiest people known to history, and I absolutely adore celebrating her music - "Jonny, Wenn du Geburtstag Hast" and "Illusions" are two of my Marlene favorites appearing on Kim David Smith Live at Joe's Pub, and Kylie is well represented, with a German translation of '80's classic "I Should Be So Lucky," and "All the Lovers" closing out the album (and most of my live shows).

Kim David Smith, thank you so much for chatting with me today and for releasing this CD - I guarantee it will get a lot of play time at our home.

Thank you so, so much for your time, and for listening to the album! It's the very definition of a labor of love, and I'm so grateful we could connect over it.

See the Kim David Smith website HERE to purchase CDs or visit iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify

All photos provided by Dan Forutne at Fortune Creative, featuring photos by José Espaillat & Clifford Faust

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUB

BWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUBBWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUBBWW Interview: Kim David Smith of KIM DAVID SMITH LIVE AT JOE'S PUB


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